Harvey Weinstein's trial judge has told his defence team to ''leave the witnesses alone''.

The 67-year-old movie mogul appeared in court in Manhattan on Monday (06.01.20) to begin his trial on two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape and one count of criminal sex act.

And during the trial, judge James Burke urged Weinstein and his lawyers to ''excise the witnesses'' from their communications, as it has proven ''hard'' to find a ''fair and impartial jury'' for the court proceedings.

He said in court: ''Just excise the witnesses from your communications going forward. It's going to be hard enough to get a fair and impartial jury. None of this will help that, attain that goal.''

However, Burke ultimately denied a request from prosecutor Joan Illuzi-Orbon, who asked for a gag order to preclude the defence from speaking about the case outside the courtroom.

Illuzi-Orbon had asked for the order to be placed because of comments made by Weinstein's lawyer Donna Rotunno - although she never mentioned her name directly - which she believed were ''degrading and humiliating'' to the witnesses.

Last week, Rotunno told CNN that actress and Weinstein accuser Annabella Sciorra ''has spent an entire life acting for a living and I anticipate that she will be an excellent witness on the stand.''

During the hearing, Burke also rejected the defence team's request to sequester the jury and postponed ruling on whether the prosecutors could admit seven photographs to show to the jury.

Weinstein's court appearance on Monday was for a final status conference before jury selection begins on Tuesday (07.01.20).

The former Hollywood producer pleaded not guilty during his first indictment in August, and his trial could last for up to two months.